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The goal of RUN:
Closed nutrient circulation

By closing regional nutrient and resource cycles, RUN contributes to the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems in the bachdrop of urban structures. An essential element of the project is the estabishment of regional nutrient partnerships between urban residents and farmers. They shall support the long-term recycling of nutrients in society.


The structure of the project is similar to a real laboratory: In the city of Heidelberg, a pilot plant as well as an information and experience space are planned to be installed in order to demonstrate the undertaking. In this way, new technologies can be tested directly under real-time conditions and with the participation of relevant actors. RUN combines the research of innovative technologies, the analysis of material flow models, systemic scenario analysis and socio-scientific participatory methods to develop sustainable solutions.


The Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Waste Management at the University of Stuttgart (ISWA) coordinates the research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The first phase runs over three years, an extension is planned. RUN is one of eight projects in the research project "Agricultural Systems of the Future" as part of the "National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030" .

Recycling nutrients
and resources

The main goal of RUN is to develop practically suitable technologies that have been tested for ecological, economic and social sustainability in order to close nutrient cycles between urban and rural regions.


Biowaste and parts of the wastewater from urban settlements are to be processed and converted into safe design fertilizers, recycled plastic films or biochar for agriculture. For this, technical urban planning and logistical structures will be developed, in which separation, processing, conversion and recycling of nutrients and their ongoing circulation go hand in hand at different levels.

Establishing partnerships between urban and rural areas

The focus in RUN is to establish so-called "nutrient partnerships" between urban residents and agricultural producers. These partnerships are building the social base for the sustainably anchored closed nutrient circulation in society.

For this purpose, the interaction of sustainable agricultural production with future-oriented consumption behavior of urban residents will be expolored. On this basis, role models between (rural) producers and (urban) consumers can be reflected. RUN, thus, shows new ways of how sustainable rural-urban partnerships can work in circular economy.

Promoting exchange 
between stakeholders

New technical systems cannot function without the respective users. In the RUN project, user perspectives are examined by social scientists. Critical positions, historical and cultural obstacles and different requests of stakeholders are identified at an early project stage and taken into account during the concept development phase.

The social scientists specifically promote communication between relevant actors who play an important role in regional nutrient circulation systems. In addition, the active exchange of different perspectives among actors is promoted. RUN ist targeted on sustainable solutions that are accepted by society and supported in the long term.

Case study Heidelberg

The project will initially run for three years. After the third project year, the construction of a pilot plant for approx. 100 to 200 residents is planned as a demonstrator for an urban sub-district in Heidelberg.

Heidelberg's geographical location in the Rhine-Neckar triangle is highly relevant, since diverse landscape structural conditions come together when developing regional circular solutions. These are already incorporated into the concept development, so that the developed solutions have a broad transfer possibility to a variety of other regions with the most varied regional structures. RUN can thus become a flagship project.

Living research

An information and experience space is also planned in Heidelberg. It will provide a real life illustration and information platform about the different elements of the nutrient partnership and nutrient recycling concept in order to encourage exchange between citizens and other involved persons in the project.

Interested parties can find out and express their opinion on questions from the production of nutrients in households in the form of organic waste and domestic wastewater, over the separation and processing until the return of agricultural products, for example to the farmer's market.

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